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J Theor Biol. 2000 Mar 7;203(1):33-50.

On optimal size and number of reserves for metapopulation persistence.

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CBW-Centre for Biometry, Wageningen, 6700 AA, The Netherlands.


Habitat fragmentation is generally considered to be detrimental to the persistence of natural populations. In nature management, one therefore tends to prefer few large nature reserves over many small nature reserves having equal total area. This paper examines whether this preference is warranted in a metapopulation framework with circular reserves (patches) by formulating the dependence of metapopulation persistence on the size and number of reserves, both of which depend on reserve radius if the total area is kept constant. Two measures of metapopulation persistence are used: R(0), the number of patches colonized by an occupied patch during its lifetime as an occupied patch, and T(e), the expected time to extinction. These two measures are functions of the extinction and colonization rates of the metapopulation. Several mechanisms for the extinction and colonization processes are formulated from which the dependence of these rates on reserve radius is calculated. It turns out that T(e)generally increases with reserve radius for all mechanisms, which supports the preference of few large reserves. However, R(0)supports this preference only in the case of some special, rather unrealistic, mechanisms. In many other, more realistic, cases an intermediate reserve size exists for which metapopulation persistence measured by R(0)is optimal.

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